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Fields joins first practice; Hayes hurt

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- Less than 10 months after being diagnosed
with Hodgkins disease, Carolina Panthers linebacker Mark Fields was
back on the field Monday, practicing at full speed with his
teammates.

Fields has been little more than an onlooker during the first
two weeks of the team's mini-camp. Doctors cleared him for practice,
and he began working in team drills -- with the staring defense --
for the first time since the cancer diagnosis ended his 2003 season
last August.

"Lance Armstrong said it best -- when you get a second chance,
you're going to go all out," Fields said of the five-time Tour de
France champion, who overcame cancer.

"Now it's just a matter of me maintaining and trying to keep it
slow until we get to September because we have a long way to go."

Fields worked along with Sam Mills, the team's linebackers
coach, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer last fall. Mills
continues to undergo treatment and also continues to coach.

Fields said he expects to practice throughout training camp and
promised to be ready for Carolina's Sept. 13 opener against Green
Bay.

But Fields and the coaching staff acknowledge he still has a
long way to go before returning to top physical shape.

"It was great to see Mark back out there," defensive
coordinator Mike Trgovac said. "He's a little rusty on some
things, but it was good to see him out there. I think he will be
ready to go by the start of camp. His body is so well conditioned
that he will be fine. He just has to get all of that poison out of
him."

After being diagnosed with Hodgkins disease last August, Fields
underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Those sessions
ended a couple of months ago, and Fields was allowed to begin
running again.

He suited up in a practice jersey for both of the team's
mini-camps, but sat on the sideline when the practice turned to team
drills.

When he finally got on the field Monday, he was greeted by
smiles and pats on the back.

"I'm young and I have a chance to play -- and the season I
finished on that is what I want to get back to," Fields said.

Fields, who started every game for the Panthers in 2002,
recorded perhaps his best season as a pro with a team-high 127
tackles, 7.5 sacks and a team-record seven forced fumbles. But he
missed the 2003 season that ended with a last-second Super Bowl loss to
New England.

Now he's itching to put the pads on when the Panthers go to
Spartanburg, S.C., on July 30 for the start of training camp.

"This is flag football right now," Fields said. "I think a
lot of guys are ready to take the shorts off and put on the pads.
We're looking forward to training camp. I know I am. The last time
I was there I had to leave a little early, so I'm looking for a
nice long stay this time."

The bad new: Hayes out 4-6 weeks
Carolina wide receiver Donald Hayes will miss four to six weeks after fracturing his shoulder last week at mini-camp.

Coach John Fox said he expected Hayes to return for the start of
training camp, slated to begin July 30.

Hayes felt pain in his shoulder in the final practice last week.
Tests over the weekend revealed a fracture.

Hayes is competing for the fifth receiver spot behind starters Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad; Ricky Proehl; and rookie Keary Colbert.